Important Behavioral Skills That Employers Value

Happy young woman high fiving with colleague in office
••• Westend61 / Getty Images

With all jobs, there are certain skills required to perform the job requirements well. Required skills will vary from position to position, and you can learn what they are by reading job descriptions. But there are other skills – like behavioral skills – that almost all roles require. Having strong behavioral skills can help you succeed in job interviews and at work.

What Are Behavioral Skills?

Behavioral skills often fall under the general heading of good character, friendliness, maturity, or common sense, and many people assume that those skills come naturally. 

Smart people don’t always possess behavioral skills. These are skills that must be learned and practiced. The good news is that it's possible to develop these behavioral skills, and to use them to enhance your career.

Top Behavioral Skills

What types of skills do employers look for when hiring? What skills make an employee valuable to a company? Many behavioral skills are social in nature. They concern how well you can get along with other people, including your supervisor, colleagues, customers, vendors, and clients.

Communication

Good communication actually consists of many different sub-skills, from appropriate patterns of body language and eye contact to the ability to write clear and accurate reports. Accurate listening and the ability to follow instructions are especially important but are often ignored or taken for granted. 

Many people simply do not pay close attention to what others communicate and fail to ask follow-up questions to understand fully. As a result, individuals act on their own inaccurate assumptions and create inefficiencies and frustrations at work. If you can really listen, your work will be a cut above many of your peers.

Goal-Setting and Planning

Anybody can wish for something to happen, but to accomplish anything (except by accident), you have to make a plan—which surprisingly few people know how to do. Planning requires setting concrete goals, identifying workable action steps, and making a commitment to see the plan through. 

Even setting the initial goal can be difficult when multiple issues are competing for attention. Effective planning requires arranging problems by importance and, often, delegation. It is impossible to do everything at once, but if you focus on the most important tasks and ask for help, you can accomplish a lot.

Numeracy

Numeracy is to math what literacy is to written language. Many adults are functionally innumerate, despite knowing how to solve complex math problems. Numeracy means being able to think clearly and intelligently about numbers in real life, not just on a test.

A classic example of innumeracy is reacting differently to news stories or advertising depending on whether the same quantity is expressed as a percent, a decimal, or a fraction—and most people do just that, which is why sale signs always use percent. Becoming numerate is an important part of critical thinking.

Empathy

Being an empathetic individual comes naturally to some, but is less natural to others. Behaving with empathy is more than feeling bad for someone who's sad, or sharing in someone else's joy. It means being able to step into someone else's world to understand not just what their point of view is, but also to understand why they have that point of view.

The boss might be angry because she's feeling pressure that you're not aware of. A colleague might have a large ego about a project because they're afraid of losing their job. You never know what other people have going on. Empathy is a behavioral skill that can help you to not only keep your own peace of mind but can also help you grow in your career because empathetic people tend to put others at ease.

More Behavioral Skills

Here is a list of more behavioral skills. Required skills will vary based on the job for which you're applying, so also review our list of skills listed by job and type of skill.

  • Accountability
  • Assertiveness
  • Asking Questions
  • Concentration
  • Conceptual Thinking
  • Conversing
  • Persuasion
  • Creative Thinking
  • Customer Service
  • Diplomacy
  • Decision Making
  • Flexibility
  • Gathering Information
  • Honesty
  • Improvisation
  • Initiative
  • Interviewing
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Motivation
  • Persistence
  • Persuasion
  • Planning
  • Problem Management
  • Problem Solving
  • Sales
  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Improvement
  • Self-Management
  • Strategic Planning
  • Stress Management
  • Tact
  • Training

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

ADD RELEVANT SKILLS TO YOUR RESUME: When you apply for a new position, make sure to read the job description carefully. Identify the skills you have that your prospective employer wants, and remember to highlight these skills in your resume.

HIGHLIGHT SKILLS IN YOUR COVER LETTER: Be prepared with examples that demonstrate your use of each sought-after skill in your cover letter.

USE SKILL WORDS DURING JOB INTERVIEWS: In your interview, some hiring supervisors may ask about skills that others just take for granted. Be prepared to give examples of all the relevant skills that you have.